Dennis Lehane, A Drink Before the War

At Steve’s urging, I picked up Dennis Lehane’s first novel for my trip to DC, and am happy now to second that recommendation. This first of the Patrick Kenzie/Angela Gennaro novels introduces many of the tropes that resurface in his work to follow–a decaying Boston, fraught race relations, and the lingering trauma of childhood abuse. His detectives flirt with the cliche of the good-person-living-in-bad-world, and yet demonstrate a kind of complexity that makes them worth following for their own sakes, not simply for the intricate plots they find themselves wrapped up in.

My only complaint about this first novel, having read the last of the five Kenzie/Gennaro novels first, is that I wanted more Bubba Rugowski. There’s something about his complete over-the-topness that I find really wonderful…

2 thoughts on “Dennis Lehane, A Drink Before the War

  1. I’m glad you liked it. I’ve also encouraged a colleague of mine here at work to take a look at the series, and he’s liked the early ones more than the later ones. By the fifth novel, I think it becomes clear why he shifted protagonists with _Mystic River_. He seems ready to follow a new character’s arc, which is also probably why we get more Bubba as we proceed through them.

    I’ll be curious to see your take on the lot of them

  2. Well, I’ve read the first three and the fifth now — the fifth was the first I read, then the first three in order. I haven’t been able to get ahold of the fourth yet. And while I’ve enjoyed them all, I’d have to say that the first two are far and away my favorites. I like the fifth one still, perhaps because it’s where I met the characters, but it does have a little sense of exhaustion around the edges. (Though, interestingly, not so much as the third, which seemed to me in some ways to be going through the motions. Which makes me wonder if the exhaustion is really Lehane’s or if it’s mine…?)

    I think I’m going to read Mystic River on the plane today…

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